There's also some practical advice, including how to avoid breaking your diet when going to a party.
Every five years, the USDA and HHS update the dietary guidelines that form the basis of U.S. nutritional policy. The new 2010 guidelines, more than ever before, focus on scientific evidence as distilled from last summer's advice from an expert advisory panel.
The new dietary guidelines focus on two major themes:
- watching calories to achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- tipping the balance of calorie intake: More calories from nutrition-rich foods, fewer calories from solid fats, sugars, and refined grains
There's also a focus on getting children to adopt healthy lifestyles.
"The focus on kids is critically important in stemming the tide of the obesity epidemic," says WebMD nutrition director Kathleen Zelman, RD. "Don't be overwhelmed by the changes your child needs. Just keep making small changes that you all can live with as a family. The guidelines should be your goal -- work toward them gradually.
New Dietary Guidelines
So what should the new American diet look like? The new guidelines suggest:
- Eat more seafood -- at least 8 ounces a week
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Substitute healthy oils for solid fats (such as margarine)
- Lower your sodium intake
- Avoid fast foods
- Exercise more
- Read food labels
- Substitute whole grains for refined grains
- Eat more beans and peas
- Get plenty of fiber, potassium, and vitamin D
- Eat/drink more nonfat or low-fat dairy products
- Replace high-fat meats with lean meats
- For some Americans, drink less alcohol
- Get off your SoFAS
"With these dietary guidelines we’re putting the best information in people's hands," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at the news conference.
For now, the hard-to-understand food pyramid stays. But look for changes this spring, when the USDA and HHS plan a massive campaign to sell the new dietary guidelines to all Americans.
"We know what to eat," Zelman says. "But the new dietary guidelines will help consumers understand how to substitute healthier foods for less healthy foods and to put together more nutrient-rich meals and snacks."
What shouldn't we eat? The new guidelines point to specific sources of SoFAS and refined grains.